UPDATE: Jason Spencer announced his resignation from his post on Wednesday.
“This email/letter is to serve as an official resignation notice to your office that I will be resigning my post effective July 31, 2018,” read Spencer’s one-sentence note to the House speaker’s office.
Sacha Baron Cohen‘s new TV show, Who Is America?, has only aired two episodes, but already it’s causing controversy.
Georgia lawmaker Jason Spencer has apologized for using racial slurs — multiple exclamations of the N-word — dropping his pants and exposing his buttocks in the latest episode, which aired Sunday. He has turned down a demand for his resignation from the state House speaker.
Spencer is the Republican state representative, and he repeatedly used the racial slur and later pulled down his pants after being told it would help scare off Muslim terrorists.
On Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia House speaker David Ralston said Spencer “has disgraced himself and should resign immediately.”
“Georgia is better than this,” Ralston reportedly said.
In a statement on Monday, Spencer apologized for the “ridiculously ugly episode” but refused to step down from office. New York Times reporter Sopan Deb posted a week-old statement from Spencer to his Twitter account.
“In posing as an Israeli agent, pretended to offer self-defence exercises,” said Spencer in his new statement. “As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these ‘techniques’ were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack.”
“My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his ‘class,'” he continued. “I was told I would be filmed as a ‘demonstration video’ to teach others the same skills in Israel. Sacha and his crew further lied to me, stating that I would be able to review and have final approval over any footage used.
“I deeply regret the language I used at request as well as my participation in the ‘class’ in general. If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place. I apologize to my family, friends, and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode,” Spencer said.
Spencer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the show “exploited” his state of mind “for profit and notoriety.”
Spencer also previously threatened legal action to prevent Who Is America? broadcaster Showtime from airing the footage.
In the episode, Cohen, a renowned satirist and master of disguise, plays Israeli military expert Captain Erran Morad, who tells Spencer to take part in what he is told is a counter-terrorism video. Spencer is told to yell racial epithets and present his exposed buttocks to purported Muslim attackers while screaming “USA” and “America,” which Cohen claims will scare the terrorists away.
Spencer also mocks Asian tourists by using words like “red dragon,” “Hong Kong” and “sushi.” He uses Japanese words as well, seemingly unaware that they aren’t of Chinese origin.
Georgia governor Nathan Deal tweeted that Spencer’s behaviour in the video is “appalling and offensive.”
The Islamic Council on American-Islamic Relations, among others, called for Spencer’s resignation.
“The ignorance and malice behind Islamophobia has led Mr Spencer to not only pursue bad policy, but engage in humiliating and hateful behaviour unbecoming of anyone – especially a state legislator,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, director of the group’s Georgia chapter.
This isn’t the first time Spencer has faced calls for his resignation. In 2017, he warned a black former state legislator that she would not be “met with torches but something a lot more definitive” if she continued to call for the removal of Confederate statues.
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He lost a primary in May but his term does not end until after the November elections.
Baron Cohen has lampooned a number of other politicians and celebrities on Who Is America?, including former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Bachelor contestant Corrine Olympios. There are seven episodes left, so it’s anybody’s guess who’s going to be exposed or humiliated next.
— With files from The Associated PressFollow @CJancelewicz
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